Confined Spaces Regulation Now In Effect

temporary stay of enforcement by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) on the Confined Spaces in Construction Standard ended Tuesday. The rule became effective Aug. 3, 2015.

The confined space standard applies to workers who enter spaces that are not designed for continuous occupancy and are difficult to exit in the event of an emergency, such as manholes and crawl spaces.

In general, the rule requires employers to:


  • Evaluate the jobsite to identify confined spaces.
  • Develop a written program and permitting system for permit-required confined spaces.
  • Control physical hazards and conduct monitoring for atmospheric hazards in confined spaces that are permit required.
  • Provide training for confined space entrants, attendants, supervisors and emergency duties.

Builders who hire trade contractors (i.e., subcontractors) to do work in a confined space may have additional responsibilities under the new standard.

Home builders in federal OSHA jurisdictions should continue to make strides toward compliance. This NAHB overview about the confined spaces rule, and these additional resources offer some guidance that may be helpful. In addition, the association continues to negotiate with the agency to clarify the rule’s application to residential home building.

For specific questions and concerns about the rule or compliance, NAHB members should contact Rob Matuga, assistant vice president of NAHB Labor, Safety & Health, at 202-266-8507.

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Comments (9)

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  1. Armando says:

    Maybe a webinar detailing solutions could be helpful to the membership.

    • NAHBNow says:

      Great comment. NAHB has made a number of resources, including an OSHA webinar on the topic, available on the website in the NAHB Confined Spaces Toolkit. Check them out at

  2. Ted L. Clifton says:

    It is time we assigned some Regulators to confined spaces. 5-10 ought to do it.

  3. Brian Lee says:

    I will look through your toolkit…Thanks!

    As a building official, the inspectors are frequently entering confined spaces such as crawlspaces and attics. Two questions…the rules require the employer to identify the confined space. First: Would that carry out to the property owner and/or developer or with proper training on entering provided from the employer (e.g. the city) to affected staff? It would be impossible for a supervisor from the city to go out to each job site prior to inspection just to identify these areas and I can see other trades that would find this difficult as well (e.g. termite inspection, plumbers, electricians, mechanical, seismic retrofitters, etc.).

    Second: The rule indicates that physical hazards are to be controlled and atmospheric conditions be monitored. Again, as a city agency we do not have control over the site other than to request that tests be performed. Would the issuance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), with adequate training for its use, suffice? Or, do we need to request that every confined space be tested for proper air quality measures before we enter?…seems like the later is going to cost someone dearly.

    Appreciate your comments!

    • NAHBNow says:

      Workers at state and local government agencies (e.g., building inspectors) are not covered by federal OSHA, unless they work in a state that has an OSHA-approved state program. To find out if you are working in a state with an OSHA-approved state program visit:

      Because OSHA regulations apply with respect to employment performed in a workplace, it would be up to the employer (i.e., state and local government agencies in OSHA-approved state programs) to keep their employees safe and comply with the rule including: having a competent person identify confined spaces, including permit-required spaces, notify employees of the location of permit spaces, evaluate the conditions in any permit spaces prior to entry, provide the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and equipment for safe entry into permit spaces, conduct employee training, and ensure responders are capable of responding to emergency if workers are entering permit spaces.

      The property owner and/or developer, as the host or controlling employer, would be required to pass information—if available—about permit spaces at the worksite (e.g., location of permit space, hazards in each space, precautions previously taken when working in the space) to the entry employers, such as the state and local government municipalities whose building inspectors must enter permit spaces.

      Rob Matuga, AVP, NAHB Labor, Safety & Health

  4. Joe C. says:

    This may sound a little off the wall, but what is the exact definition of a confined space? As a retired inspector and supervisor with a city and also licensed GC, PLBG. & HVAC contractor, I only know of one def. in the codes that address confined spaces and that is for adequate combustion air for fuel fired equipment. But in the building codes as for attics and crawl spaces you have min. standards for adequate ventilation for those spaces. Does this mean all these refs are going to change?

    • NAHBNow says:

      OSHA has its own definition for confined spaces that applies to this worker safety standard. OSHA defines a confined space as a space that: 1) is large enough for a worker to enter it, 2) has limited means of entry or exit, and 3) is not designed for continuous occupancy. Confined spaces that may be found on residential construction sites include, but are not limited to: manholes (such as sewer, storm drain, electrical, communication, or other utility), sewers, storm drains, water mains, crawl spaces, attics, and basements (before steps are installed).

      A space may also be a permit-required confined space if it has a hazardous atmosphere, the potential for engulfment or suffocation, a layout that might trap a worker through converging walls or a sloped floor, or any other serious safety or health hazard. OSHA requires employers to take steps to protect workers only if they work in a permit-required confined space.

      Rob Matuga, AVP, NAHB Labor, Safety & Health

  5. J. Oliver says:

    One more permit for the builder to pay for and one more way for a city to issue fines and collect money so they can hire more inspectors to issue more fines and collect more money. A vicious cycle.

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